WASHINGTON, DC– In hockey, perhaps the scariest proposition for any team – no matter how strong – going into the postseason is the possibility of running into a hot goaltender.
Much to the chagrin of Black and Gold supporters hoping for the chance to seal the series on Saturday, the B’s were stopped cold in their tracks during a 2-1 loss to the Caps on Thursday thanks to 44 saves from netminder Braden Holtby.
The 22-year-old Saskatchewan native stopped each and every puck that the B’s threw his way including thirteen in the third period to seal a one-goal home-ice victory for the Capitals.
To say that things didn’t get off to the type of start that the Bruins had envisioned may qualify as a candidate for the understatement of the year award. After a questionable non-call that saw Alexander Ovechkin jump on the back of Boston defenseman Andrew Ference and remove him from the play, the Capitals proceeded up the ice with a 2-on-1 breakaway. Power forward Brooks Laich would slide the puck through the legs of Brian Rolston and over to Marcus Johansson at the 1:22 mark of the opening frame. The 21-year-old Swede made no mistake, sending it into the top shelf to give Washington an early 1-0 lead.
“It was an odd man rush. They made a good play. The puck rolled and stuck right to Johansson’s stick. He was able to bury it top corner.” — Tim Thomas
In typical Bruins’ fashion, Boston would not go down without a fight, evening the score just past the mid-point of the first period. It was Rich Peverley who would carry the puck down the wing and fire a wrist shot through Holtby’s five hole to pull the Bruins in to a 1-1 tie. Despite Thursday’s contest being without doubt the most wide-open of any of the games thus far, neither team could find the twine again until the tail end of the middle period.
After yet another questionable call went against the Bruins – conspiracy theorists may suggest that it stems from Caps’ owner Ted Leonsis’ most recent comments – Patrice Bergeron would be sent to the penalty box with 2:07 on the clock in the second period. It was on the ensuing power-play that Washington would regain their lead after a wicked wrist shot from Alex Semin blazed right past the glove of Tim Thomas and into the Boston net. Even after the Caps had scored the eventual game winning goal while he was in the box, Boston’s always-humble alternate captain was quick to defend the referee’s decision.
“He made that call. It happens fast for me, for him. I’m obviously not going to complain about it.” – Patrice Bergeron
As the second period came to a close and the third period progressed, it appeared as if the Capitals had taken back most of the game’s momentum, controlling play for the better part of the final twenty-plus minutes.
Boston would amass fifteen total shots after Semin had given the Capitals the lead, but simply couldn’t solve Holtby as they fell 2-1 at the Verizon Center. Thursday’s win by the Caps has also assured that there will indeed be a game six played right back here in Washington, DC at some point on Sunday.
– While it was evident that Braden Holtby was in top form on Thursday, most of the Bruins’ 45 shots on net wouldn’t exactly be characterized as “high quality scoring chances”. A large portion of Boston’s best opportunities to score came on shots that the Caps’ ‘tender was able to get a clear look at, which of course makes the shot far easier to stop.
“He saw everything tonight, that’s for sure. I can’t say there’s too many shots that he didn’t see. He likes to glove pucks, he likes to hold on to it, so like I said we’ve got to get more bodies in front of him.” – Rich Peverley
– In game three, the Black and Gold did an excellent job in disrupting the crease of the Caps’ rookie goaltender and didn’t allow him to find a rhythm. Thursday’s game four was a completely different story as much like games one and two, the majority of the B’s scoring chances had to come from the outside. The overwhelming theme in the Boston locker room after Thursday’s difficult defeat was that the team needed to do a better job in establishing it’s presence in front of the Washington goalkeeper.
“I think our pressure was good. Now it’s about finding the loose pucks. It’s there, we’re in the area, we just haven’t found the loose pucks for the rebounds. We’ve got to be better.” — Patrice Bergeron
“Obviously there is a lot of loose pucks around the net that they cleared and we didn’t get to. The net front presence has to be better, not just screening but also finding those loose pucks. They’re finding them better than we are. So, there’s probably not a good enough commitment in that area right now until we get that we are going to be struggling to score goals.” – Claude Julien
Ben’s Three Stars:
2) Tyler Seguin (6 Shots)
3) Alex Semin (1 Goal)
Series: Tied 2-2
Next Game: Saturday April 21, 2012, TD Garden, Boston, MA.
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About the Author: Boston Bruins writer for Hockey Independent. Have written for The Hockey Guys and SB Nation Boston. Follow me on Twitter @_BWoodward or shoot me an email at BWoodward.HI@gmail.com.